UNIPASS saga: Importers want demurrage absorbed

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Importers at Tema Port have entreated government to absorb demurrage and storage rent charges incurred during the two days which saw the deployment of the Integrated Customs Management System (ICUMS), also known as UNIPASS, due to challenges faced in the process.

According to importers, the unsuccessful deployment prevented importers from clearing their cargoes and has resulted in demurrage; and this cost, according, to them is no fault of theirs but government’s.

Executive Director of the Importers and Exporters Association of Ghana, Sampson Asaki Awingobit, made the call in an interview with the B&FT after a closed-door meeting with government officials and other stakeholders, including the leadership of freight forwarders.

“On April 28 to April 29, 2020, freight forwarders were unable to clear their cargoes due to operational challenges of UNIPASS. It is not the making of the importer to take GCNet and West Blue out of the system, but government. So, if there is to be any punishment it should rather go to government and not the importers or exporters,” he said.

Mr. Awingobit is also delighted GCNet is back onstream, and advised government to ensure that its policy implementation does not affect the importers this way anymore.

“We are happy that GCNet is back, and if government does not want them and says they are ready to pay them off, they should pay them; but government should not let this affect the importers and exporters the more. For that, we will not agree,” he emphasised.

Closed-door meeting

Meanwhile, the Trade and Industry Minister, Alan Kyerematen; Deputy Finance Minister, Kweku Kwateng; Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) Commissioner General, Ammishaddai Owusu-Amoah; and other high ranking officials of the Customs Division of GRA had a crucial closed-door meeting with the leadership of freight forwarders.

They apologised for the mishaps in roll-out of ICUMS and assured industry players of a successful implementation for UNIPASS without hitches going forward.

B&FT understands from sources within the meeting that the Commissioner General of GRA said he will issue a directive allowing the two systems to run concurrently until one is stripped out. He further gave assurances to the freight forwarders that they have a dedicated team working tirelessly to address the challenges.

He is said to have further described the UNIPASS system as a good infrastructure, and said it will help reduce freight costs and also increase cargo traffic into the country.

An Executive Member of the Association of Customs House Agents (ACHAG), David Siribor Boateng who was present at the meeting, stated that government had assured them of quick response to issues raised in the meeting.

He further advised government to ensure that stakeholders are adequately educated on policies when it seeks to roll out a new project. “Government should engage us; broader consultation and more education will help whenever they want to introduce any policies at the port,” he said.

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